“What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year! Ladies celebrating ladies!” –Leslie Knope
It’s Feb. 13, and for Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” that means one thing: celebrating the women in her life on what she calls “Galentine’s Day.” After the episode premiered in 2010, the holiday became a tradition for many ladies wishing to honor friendship.
Galentine’s Day has no specific rules, but according to the almighty Leslie Knope, it is a day for waffles, stories of romance, and one-of-a-kind, extraordinary gifts. For most of us, the point of Galentine’s Day is not to make Leslie level presents, but to simply show that friendship matters.
While the unofficial holiday might seem like a trivial way for single women to feel less lonely on Valentine’s Day, it represents something much more significant than an all-girls breakfast for dinner and dance party. Fortunately, Southern Utah University has its very own Leslie Knope to advocate its importance.
Sophie Reese, a junior photography major, has always been influenced by a strong sense of female friendship. Growing up playing team sports meant having a group of gal pals from the beginning, something that still resides strongly with her.
Despite a robust female bond from a young age, Reese still notices how her childhood was affected by women being taught to compete in society.
“It took me a long time to unlearn the phrase, ‘I’m not like other girls,’” Reese said. “I think I really liked that when I was younger. It is such a bad phrase… especially [to] young girls who are brought up in this media where they’re taught to be this cool, enigmatic woman who…‘isn’t like other women.’”
While a romantic movie night can be entertaining, these films often portray two women passive-aggressively fighting for the attention of the male protagonist. It is then up to him to choose the one that stands out the most–the one that isn’t like the other.
Like most young children, pop culture played an essential role in Reese’s childhood, even affecting her college education track and possible future career. Unfortunately, this intake of media also included dangerous messages that have stuck with her.
“I think I just looked at movies for so long and thought, ‘That’s what I want to be because obviously, that’s what guys want.’ It’s just pitting women against other women… I hate it when boys tell me I’m ‘not like other girls.’ I’ll ask them, ‘Well, what’s wrong with other girls?’ Comparison truly is the thief of joy.”
While many media outlets continue to demonstrate this idea of woman vs. woman, “Parks and Recreation” is well known for the portrayal of friendship between Leslie and Ann Perkins. Their close relationship started over a disagreement but quickly evolved into one full of support and genuine love, something with which Reese can empathize.
“[I had] so many missed opportunities of just being friends with so many wonderful women because I was following such a misogynistic idea… Women have so much more in common than they don’t.”
While Leslie and Anne are different in their goals and desires, they find equal ground for support. They’re loyal through arguments, job changes, and yes, even when being interested in dating the same guy. The two genuinely live by and practice Leslie’s phrase, “uteruses before duderuses.”
“I’ve had a lot of friends over the years say, ‘Oh, I’ll be so happy once I have a boyfriend.’ There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a boyfriend, but I just think there’s so much that you still have with female friendships that don’t come with a heteronormative romantic relationship.”
Does this mean that friendships with men are unnecessary? Absolutely not. But in a society that glorifies the norm of competition in female relationships, equal emphasis should be put on the rare ones that make life easier and more enjoyable to live.
“When we choose to look past being pitted against each other and embrace each other, no matter who you are, we’re able to have much stronger, loyal relationships.”
Reese sets an example of what Galentine’s Day should be about every year: encouraging, protecting and comforting the women in her life. Most of the time, that’s through quality time and conversation. And sometimes, it includes a whole lot of boy talk and junk food.
Although Galentine’s Day only comes once a year, that cherished intimacy in female relationships doesn’t need to be rarely celebrated. Whether it’s through a comforting text, the laughs and tears shared or screaming Taylor Swift lyrics; every day can be about women supporting other women through their accomplishments and failures.
No one has to be Leslie Knope for every day to be Galentine’s Day.